A key component of Part 107 is the remote pilot in command’s (RPIC) responsibility to request a waiver, or an airspace authorization, when planning to fly in controlled airspace. Each successful request and subsequent approval generates a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) by the FAA to the flying community. The definition of a NOTAM is, a non-scheduled advisory specifying certain activities either within a specific area (L) or encompassing the entire contiguous 48 states (D). The focus of the UAV community is the former and therefore it is imperative that we as pilots in command understand how to submit our requests and expeditiously have the FAA publish the NOTAM.On October 25th the FAA announced that it has issued 81 authorizations for UAV operations in Class D and E airspace and 36 waivers to Part 107 since August 29th, the effective date of the new rule. That same night, October 25th, Cleveland Indian’s pitcher Corey Kluber set a World Series’ record by striking out eight Chicago Cub batters in the first three innings of Game 1; first time that happens in the history of the World Series. In other words, of the nine outs of the first three innings, eight were strikeouts, an outstanding 89% average.In contrast the FAA reported, that it has rejected 71 waiver applications and 854 airspace applications; a dismal 33% and 9% respectively. In other words, for every 9 applications submitted for airspace authorizations only 1 was approved.We have to do better than this.Perhaps the problem arises from a lack of knowledge and familiarity with the airspace classification and perhaps it’s just a reflection of the adjustment period to a new law; whatever the reasons we, as an industry and as RPICs, need to improve our knowledge of the process.It is not a coincidence that in our interview with Bob Cunningham, he expressed his concern that the area of the Knowledge Test that students were having the most problems with is airspace classification. Understanding the airspace over the country is a key component of safety and a compulsory requirement to obtain the RPIC certificate. Becoming familiar with the restrictions and equipment requirements of each Class of airspace is a must.What does a successful request for airspace authorization look like? Here’s an example of a NOTAM for the vicinity of Houston Intercontinental airport for October 26th: CXO 10/307 CXO AIRSPACE UAS WI AN AREA DEFINED AS 1NM RADIUS OF IAH343022.4 (2.5NM SE CXO) SFC-400FT AGL 1610261400-1610262000In plain English:
- (CXO) Conroe Airspace area
- (10/307) Notam # 307 Issued on the 10th month of the year
- (UAS) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or System
- (WI) Within an area defined as 1 Nautical Mile Radius of
- (IAH343022.4) Radial 343 of IAH VOR at a distance of 22.4 nautical miles
- (2.5NM SE CXO) Also located at 2.5 nautical miles South East of the Conroe airport.
- (SFC-400FT AGL) From the surface to 400 feet above ground level
- (1610261400-1610262000) Effective from 10/26/2016 at 1400 Zulu to 10/26/2016 at 2200
- Given that this NOTAM is for the Houston area (CDT) Zulu times translates to -5 hours during Daylight Savings Time or 11:00 PM to 5:00 PM local time.